Esplanade Association Announces Jen Mergel As James and Audrey Foster Executive Director

Special to the Sun

The Board of Directors of the Esplanade Association has announced Jen Mergel as the nonprofit organization’s new Executive Director, according to a press release from the group.

Beginning June 1, Mergel will lead the non-profit dedicated to revitalizing and maintaining the iconic 64-acre park along the Charles River while providing engaging programming that benefits the broad community. ​​

Mergel is a nationally respected cultural leader and contemporary art curator dedicated to her hometown of Boston. Prior to joining the Esplanade Association, she served as Senior Advisor for Cultural Partnerships and Parks Equity, Director of Experience and Cultural Partnerships, and Guest Curator for the award-winning exhibition, Fog x FLO Fujiko Nakaya, at the Emerald Necklace Conservancy. She built the Conservancy’s capacity to invite more inclusive and impactful park experiences through partnerships with history keepers, change agents, and thought leaders in public art and design as well as cultural stewardship.

​Mergel holds degrees with honors from Harvard University and Bard College. She was selected as a Fellow of the Center for Curatorial Leadership and the Culture of Health Leadership Institute for Racial Healing, and in 2022, she accepted the Charles Eliot Conservationist of the Year Award on behalf of Olmsted Now: Greater Boston’s Olmsted Bicentennial.

​“The Esplanade Association is thrilled to have Jen Mergel’s leadership and talent. Her commitment to Boston and outdoor space is unique, and we are confident that she will be an outstanding steward during this transformational time. We are eager for her to steer the development of Charlesbank Landing, which will add new amenities and vibrancy to the park,” Esplanade Board Chair Alexi Conine said in a press release.

About her appointment, Mergel noted, “I am honored to serve as the Esplanade Association’s very first James and Audrey Foster Executive Director. I look forward to close collaboration with our team and board, with the Commonwealth and Department of Conservation and Recreation, with ancestral stewards, neighbors, supporters, civic and creative partners, and all park users old and new, in affirming the Esplanade as a welcoming, inspiring, and thriving cultural landscape that fosters belonging for all in Greater Boston and beyond.”

​The newly endowed position was established by a generous contribution from philanthropists James and Audrey Foster, and Jen Mergel will be the first James and Audrey Foster Executive Director. 

Mergel succeeds interim director Margo Newman. The Board thanks Margo for providing exemplary leadership during a transitional period and deeply appreciates her service.

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